I love trying different foods from around the world. I also love cooking for my husband (and myself, lets be real here – that’s the main benefit to cooking/baking: eating the results), and making his favorite foods, especially ones that are a taste of home. Being a Swede he has a justified love of Swedish meatballs, authentic Swedish meatballs, and I was taught this recipe by his mother. These are AUTHENTIC Swedish Meatballs (köttbullar). Authentic Swedish meatballs are even better than Ikea’s (no offense, we also love Ikea meatballs), and without any of the other additives of so-called-Swedish Meatball recipes you’ll see online. There’s 2 main differences you need to look for to tell if a recipe is legit or not:
- Allspice. Allspice is the key ingredient that makes them Swedish meatballs. Thanks to the spice road Swedes have enjoyed allspice for centuries.
- No sour cream based gravy. It should be brown gravy. There’s just a touch of milk in it. That’s it.
I make authentic Swedish meatballs on a regular basis. They are perfect to make ahead of time and then freeze. Our family of 2 humans can get 3 to 4 meals from one batch of meatballs. So while they are a bit time consuming to make, it pays off in the end. I generally make one pan full for dinner the night I make them, and then freeze the rest. Freezing is so easy, and ensure you won’t be wasting any and will have a quick dinner ready and waiting for you later on.
How to Make Authentic Swedish Meatballs
ProTip: Got kids? Letting them help form the meatballs is the perfect way to get them involved. My two year old niece helped and love it. It’s a goopy and fun job, made easier with the help of more hands.
Create the Meatball Mixture
First, start by grating the onion. This is perfect for those picky eaters who hate seeing chunks of onion in their food. I use my little box grater and just grate my onion until it’s a pulp. Depending on the size of your onions you’ll be using a whole small to medium onion or half a really large one. It should be around half a cup or so of grated onion in the end. I also like to do this directly into the bowl I’ll be using to mix the meatballs in (I’m lazy like that).
Next I get my breadcrumbs ready. Measure them, and then add your milk to them. Mix well to combine. You’ll want to let it sit a few moments until the breadcrumbs absorb all the milk. You’ll end up with a breadcrumb mush. I also have seen other recipes call for mashed potatoes in the place of breadcrumbs, so if you want a gluten free option that’s still authentic, replace the milk and breadcrumbs with mashed potatoes.
Note: Make sure you use plain breadcrumbs! Store bought is fine, or make your own if you’ve got some bread to use up.
While the breadcrumbs and milk are doing their thing I get the rest of the ingredients together. To the bowl with the onions I add the meat, allspice, salt, pepper, and egg. By this time the breadcrumbs should have absorbed the milk and be all mushy. Add it to the bowl with the other ingredients as well.
Now the fun part. While you can use a fork or spoon to mix the ingredients, I think it’s easiest to just use your hands! So dig it and mix the mixture well. Incorporate all ingredients evenly throughout the mixture.
Now it’s time to start making some balls! I suggest having a cup of water on hand, dipping your fingers/palm in the water will help prevent the meat mixture from sticking to your hands. It can be pretty goopy! Roll the meatballs into small balls. They should be about an inch in diameter. Traditionally, meatballs are cooked in a skillet with butter. They come out really well this way, but it is more labor intensive. I opt to cook them in the oven instead for an easier option, the result is just as good though! To cook int he oven, place them in an oven safe dish. You don’t need to worry too much about crowding them, so you can place them fairly close together.
Create the Meatballs
At this point I will also separate out the meatballs I’m going to freeze. You’ll need a cookie sheet, place the meatballs on the cookie sheet. Cover the meatballs with plastic wrap or tin foil, and place in the freezer for a few hours until they are frozen (or until you forget about them). Once they are frozen solid you can remove them from the cookie sheet and put them in a freezer safe container to be used another day.
To cook the meatballs in the oven, preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Bake for 45 minutes or until cooked through and crispy brown on the outside.
Serve with mashed potatoes or rice (as shown), lingon berries (not shown – we cannot find them here), pickled red beets, and gravy.
Authentic Swedish Meatballs Recipe (Better than Ikea)
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1 medium onion (grated)
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, plain
- 1/2 cup milk (half & half, or non-dairy milk also works)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp allspice
- Grate onion and place into bowl.
- Measure breadcrumbs and place in small bowl, add milk and mix well. Let sit.
- Add beef, pork, salt, pepper, and allspice to the large bowl.
- Add milk and breadcrumb mixture to the large bowl.
- Mix well to combine.
- Form 1 inch diameter balls.
- Bake at 375F for 45 minutes or until cooked through and brown and crispy on the outside.
Alternate cooking method: Pan fry in butter. Cook until cooked through.
Serve with gravy, mashed potatoes (or rice), lingon berries, and pickled red beets.
Bonus Authentic Swedish Meatball Gravy Recipe:
What good are authentic Swedish meatballs if you don’t have gravy? Right? I’ll have you know that gravy is my specialty. I LOVE making it. So here is a quick gravy recipe as a special bonus. I didn’t take any pictures of my graving making process but you get the idea! Just follow along for perfect, lump-free gravy. Now, I will stress, that a proper gravy for Swedish meatballs is emphatically brown gravy. This gravy contains only a dash of half & half (or milk). My Swedish MIL also says that it is traditional to also put a little sugar or a little bit of lingon berry in the gravy as well. I leave those out..mostly because I can’t currently find lingon berries 🙁
If you can, use the pan you used to cook your meatballs in. If you are doing it in the oven like me, and your oven dish can’t go on the stove, then use a small skillet or small pot. Add 1 tbsp of butter to the pan, let melt. When melted add 1 tbsp flour and whisk to combine into a roux. Let cook for 1 minute. Add 1 cup of beef stock or broth to the pan (scrape up any browned on bits as you go), and whisk thoroughly. Bring to a boil and let thicken for a minute. Add a splash of milk/half & half or cream and a dash of allspice and mix to combine. Turn off heat and enjoy!
Have you tried my Authentic Swedish Meatballs? Let me know what you think!